Monday, January 30, 2017

Hardin's Crossing: What's in a Place Name

Finding the origin of place names can be a tricky business sometimes. In Schenectady County, the origin of some place names are more apparent than others. Glenville, Duanesburg, and Princetown were named after prominent people who lived there, namely Alexander Lindsay Glen, James Duane, and John Prince. Scotia and Rotterdam were named after places. Scotia, after the home country of Alexander Lindsay Glen, and Rotterdam after the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Schenectady and Niskayuna are both forms of place names given to them by Native Americans in the area. Schenectady means "beyond the pines" or "over the pine plains" and Niskayuna means "extensive corn flats."

Checking out some of the hamlets in the area and we have Alplaus. Alplaus derived from the Dutch Aal Plaats which means place of the eels. Carman in Rotterdam was originally named Athens Junction after the junction of the New York Central and a railroad from Athens, NY. It was eventually renamed after Will Carman who opened a general store at the crossing. This all leads to a research question that I received recently. What was Hardin's Crossing, and where was it located? Was it a ferry or railroad crossing? Who was this enigmatic Hardin who had a crossing named after him? Some of these questions were easier to answer than others.

This map shows the lands of Hardin as well as the Fitchburg and New York Central railroads that crossed Sacandaga Road. Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Library Map Collection.
Specifics about Hardin's Crossing were difficult to come by. I quickly came to find out that it wasn't listed on any modern maps and articles that I found would refer to Hardin's Crossing, but often had no background as to why it was called that. We are lucky to have former Don Keefer's research files on Glenville and Scotia. Keefer was the Glenville town historian as well as the Schenectady County historian for a while and his research is very valuable when researching anything about Glenville.

Photos of the DeGraff House on what is now Sacandaga Road. The DeGraff House marked
the site of the Beukendaal Massacre where 20 men from Schenectady were killed and 13 were
captured by French and Indian attackers after a viscous battle.
Keefer's research binder on the Beukendaal Massacre had a few article on Hardin's Crossing. It turns
out that in 1915 both the schoolhouse and the area of Hardin's Crossing were changed to Beukendaal to commemorate the Beukendaal Massacre. The charge to change the name was led by none other than the Schenectady County Historical Society, little did they know that they would cause a bit of confusion to their librarian 102 years down the road. So that article solved the "where" of Hardin's Crossing which was very close to the site of the Beukendaal Massacre near Sacandaga Road.

I then went to our map files to see if there were any maps that might show the site so I could learn what the crossing part of Hardin's Crossing referred to. An undated map of the 10th School District of Glenville shows two railroads that cross Sacandaga Road, the Fitchburg and the New York Central Railroad. This map gave me some more definitive proof that an Hardin (unknown first name) owned property in the area and I also found out that the crossing was a railroad crossing.

This page from the  U.S., Selected Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880 shows the wealth of Sidney Hardin (outlined in yellow). He owned 200 acres of land and the cash value of his farm was $8,000 which would put it at over $200,000 today. This made him one of the more wealthy landowners in the area. A separate census page puts his personal estate at $2,166. Courtesy of
The "who" was a bit more difficult to find out, I knew it was a Hardin, but finding out which one was tricky as none of the articles mentioned which Hardin the crossing was named after. The Hardins lived in Schenectady since the mid-1700s, but there weren't a ton of Hardins in the area. The Hardin family file in our library had a page from Cuyler Reynolds' Hudson and Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs which gave a short history of the Hardin family and listed many of the Schenectady County Hardins. It turns out that there were two Hardins that had farms in Glenville, Sidney and Jonathan Tripp Hardin. The 1866 Beer's Atlas lists many of the property owners in Glenville and sure enough J. & S. Hardin were both shown on the map right near the crossing of Sacandaga Road and the New York Central Railroad. Jonathan Tripp Hardin would go on to live in Schenectady, but Sidney stayed in Glenville.

Sidney died in 1880 at the young age of 54. In a 1965 Raw Materials of History column from the Schenectady Gazette, Neil Reynolds states that even though the Hardin's Crossing was changed to Beukendaal, "the name Hardin's Crossing still persists." So Sidney Hardin's memory lasted a while after he died. Not being a native to Schenectady County, I wonder if anyone Glenville natives still call this area of Sacandaga Road Hardin's Crossing.


  1. Great article! Fun to learn about the crossing there. Is there a past post about the massacre?

    1. You know, there isn't a post on the Beukendaal massacre. Stay tuned for our next post though.